2002.8.27 – why did i ask?

How many rhetorical questions do you ask in one day?

1? 10? 50? If you work in the customer service industry, like me, you probably ask anywhere from 50-100. The main rhetorical question being, “how are you doing today?”.

This is a question that very rarely requires an answer longer than 2 or 3 words, yet many customers feel the need to elaborate. They don’t just say “fine” or “good” like we expect, but they launch into a dissertation on their life and every problem under the sun.

Being a pretty even keeled person, I tend to listen and let it slide, but some of my co-workers get extremely distraught when they trap themselves with this dreaded question.

I say, if someone is making you a cappucino, they most likely do not have their phd in psychology. Not to say that baristas are stupid – on the contrary – I know some baristas who are professional students and get amazing grades, but they don’t want to solve the worlds problems.

Here is a solution. Next to the tip jar, in every coffeehouse (and if the coffeehouse you work at doesn’t even have a tip jar, high tail it to another establishment, for tips are the cornerstone of the barista trade!), there should be a can similar to the one Lucy had in “The Peanuts”. You know, the one that she collected her “5 cents” for psychiatric advice with. After all, it is difficult enough for people to drop their 2 pennies into the tip jar, let alone dig out another 5 cents to blurt out all their problems.

This would work to the advantage of the workers because instead of rolling their eyes or tuning the customer out, they can merely point to the can and exclaim “if you want advice, cough up the dough, buddy!” Ofcourse, in theory this would always work, but in practice you could just upset people. The latter is more likely. So, if you take up this concept, please proceed with caution. You know how the yuppies get before they have their half-caff-double-latte-with-no-whip-and-extra-foam. If they only cared about the people picking the beans they drink daily, they would help out a fair trade cause instead of a local chain. see links below for starbucks info and what you can do to help the fair trade cause!

Keep this in mind. If you don’t want a lengthy answer, don’t ask a rhetorical question. It will only curtail you from the ability to read the book that you set down to wait on the customer. Hello is enough. Don’t even go to the “how are you today?” arena. The bout will take longer than you expected and you will be subject to boredom and polite rhetoric.


coming up from hippiegrrl…”my life and love canal – a 2 part series, 25 years later.”

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